Types Of Hand Saw And Their Uses

Types Of Hand Saw And Their Uses

When it comes to setting up a workshop, there’s no denying that you’ll need to be prepared to invest in a lot of tools. While powered saws are an important purchase, many people underestimate the need to have a selection of hand saws.

What’s more, a lot of newcomers to woodworking don’t realise just how many different types of hand saw are available. It’s important to have a varied collection so that you are able to tackle different types of work. In this guide, we’ll be looking at 17 of the most common types of hand saw and their uses.

What Are Hand Saws And Why Are They Still Important In Woodworking?

A hand saw is a type of cutting tool for wood and other materials. Unlike electric saws, these are manual tools and are usually much smaller than their powered counterparts. When you think of a hand saw, you’ll probably imagine a traditional type of saw with a long, tapered blade and a large wooden handle at the end. While these are excellent general-purpose saws, they certainly aren’t the only type of hand saw.

You could be forgiven for thinking that, in an era where everything is powered, the hand saw was obsolete. But this is far from being the case. These pieces of equipment are essential in any woodworking setting and will always have a place.

The main reason for this is that a hand saw can achieve a far more precise finish and is crucial for things like cleaning out dovetails and crosscutting mouldings. In addition to this, the use of a hand saw is far safer and delivers a much cleaner result.

Moreover, if you really want to be the best craftsperson you can be, it’s important to have all of the relevant skills. Sure, using a powered saw will save you time but anyone can do this whereas it takes some skill and practice to master the art of using a hand saw. Plus, if the power ever goes out, you don’t need to stop working!

Different Types Of Hand Saw And Their Uses

There are many different types of hand saws and each is suited to a different type of work. It’s important that, when setting up your workshop, you invest in several different types according to what you will be doing. The broader your collection, the more projects you will be able to take on. What’s more, since hand saws aren’t anywhere near as pricey as their powered cousins, getting a good collection won’t break the bank.

Wood Saw / Panel Saw

A regular wood saw is designed, as its name suggests, for all-purpose wood cutting. The blade is large and makes straight cuts in a short amount of time. But owing to this design, the wood saw isn’t great for more intricate work or smaller cuts.

One of the great things about the wood saw is that it is such a versatile piece of equipment and something that many would consider a staple tool of even the most basic workshop. You’ll also find them in professional settings.

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Hardpoint Saw

Hardpoint saws are designed to make cross cuts quick and easy. One of the major downfalls of this type of saw is that they are disposable. What we mean by this is that the blade cannot be sharpened and so once they go blunt, you’ll have to get rid of the saw to buy a new one.

The hardpoint saw has two main aspects; the handle and the blade. You’ll typically find that the handle is made from either wood or plastic. Handles on modern tools are generally plastic whereas older hardpoint saws had wooden handles.

The blade features induction hardened teeth which are all of a uniform size. The great thing about these saws is that they come in a variety of TPIs making them suitable for a lot of different applications whether you need a fine or coarse cut. For finer hardpoint saws, the blade will usually be reinforced with an additional piece of steel along the spine for greater stability.

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Fine Finish Saw

The fine finish saw, sometimes simply called the fine saw, is a narrow blade that is reinforced along the top edge. This reinforcement ensures good stability of the tool owing to the fact that the blade is so narrow.

The fine saw is used for making straight cuts and, as its name suggests, fine cuts. Where precision is needed, this should be one of your go-to saws. You’ll also notice that in many cases, the handle of the fine saw is offset slightly making this an excellent choice when you need to cut along the edges of a piece of material.

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Hacksaw / Junior Hacksaw

The hacksaw is one of the most commonly seen types of saw in any workshop. One of the reasons that it is such a popular tool is that it offers excellent versatility. It is suitable for cutting all types of materials including metal, wood and plastic. Moreover, the hacksaw comes in various designs that may feature anywhere between 18 to 32 teeth per inch.

Hacksaws are great for working with things like metal piping but they can be relatively large. This is where the junior hacksaw comes in handy. It has many of the same features as its larger cousin but in a more compact design with a smaller handle. This is great if you are working in a confined space but it’s also imperative when you need a tool that will make finer, more precise cuts.

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Tenon Saw

The tenon saw is excellent for when you need a tool that will make much more precise and small cuts. They’re also brilliant for cutting straight lines and are versatile enough to cut through both hard and soft wood. These saws generally have a much higher TPI so give a nice neat finish to the cut. They typically work better with wood thanks to their non-flexible blade which gives the user far greater control when cutting.

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Coping Saw

A coping saw is often considered to be the most versatile hand saw out there since they are great at working with a huge number of materials. You’ll find yourself reaching for a coping saw when cutting through plastic, ceramic, hardwood, softwood and certain types of metal (non-ferrous).

What’s great about the coping saw is that it has a much smaller and more narrow design than other types of saw, which makes it ideal for making manual curved cuts that are a lot more intricate. A good example of this is when you need to cut skirting as the small blade will make light work of cutting around shapes.

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Crosscut Saw

The crosscut saw, which is sometimes called the felling saw, has a very unique feature in that it has a handle at both ends. This is because it is designed to be used by two people when making perpendicular cuts, typically when cutting tree trunks. That said, there are some single user crosscut saws out there but these are far less common and are used when you need to coarsely trim branches or boards.

The main advantage of the crosscut saw is that it delivers a quick, no-nonsense method of cutting across the grain, especially in commercial situations. However, you should keep in mind that this saw is for rough cutting so won’t leave a pristine edge. The blade is quite thick and features large beveled teeth.

Pull Saw

Many types of saws are designed to be pushed through the materials whereas a pull saw is designed to be moved in the opposite direction. These types of saw, generally speaking, have a much narrower blade and are better at making finer, more precise cuts. The teeth will be set backwards as opposed to the forward-facing design of a push saw.

When using a pull saw, you will notice that you are able to get much greater control of the saw which adds to its effectiveness when making fine cuts. There are many different types of pull saw which are suitable for cutting different materials including fret saws, coping saws and the Japanese Pull Saws.

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Bow Saw

The bow saw gets its name because of its large arced handle that looks very similar to a hunting bow. It features a long narrow blade with teeth that are designed to give a very aggressive cut. The bow saw is also great for making faster cuts although this does mean that you will be left with a much rougher finish. For this reason, the bow saw isn’t typically used for intricate work and is usually found in situations where things like branches and logs need to be cut.

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Fret Saw

The fret saw is a type of bow saw and features a long, large frame. This type of saw is often used when precision is needed and is particularly useful when cutting curves or intricate patterns. Many people may opt to use a coping saw for this type of work but the fret saw does have an advantage here; the user can cut further away from the outer edge of the material.

That said, you should keep in mind that there is no rotation in the blade so using a fret saw is often a little more tasking. But the long, flexible blade does produce excellent results where complex cuts are required.

Owing to the proportions of the fret saw, in that its large frame far outweighs the small blade that often measures around five inches, it does take some skill to use. Inexperienced users may find that they deviate off the cutting path far more easily.

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Keyhole Saw – See Also ‘Plasterboard Saw’

The keyhole saw features a long, narrow blade that is used to cut out portions of building materials, particularly plasterboard. Generally speaking, there are two types of keyhole saw; one with a retractable blade and one with a fixed blade.

Fixed blade keyhole saws are much more affordable and do not require a hole to be pre-drilled before they can be used. On the other hand, the retractable blade version of this tool has a blade that can be retracted which is useful for getting rid of excess flex.

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Japanese Pull Saw

The Japanese are renowned for their ability to produce sharp, precise, high-quality blades and when it comes to saws, there is no exception. The Japanese pull saw is designed primarily for cutting wood and it’s important to remember that the delicate teeth will easily be damaged if used to cut metal, so this should be avoided at all costs.

The great thing about the very fine teeth is that they are incredibly sharp and so you can make fine cuts without exerting yourself. While the saw is traditionally used in Japan, woodworkers in the west are now beginning to appreciate its capabilities and more are being seen in workshops around the world. However, it may take some getting used to as traditional European saws are pushed, whereas the Japanese saw is pulled to make the cut.

Along with its fine, sharp teeth, the Japanese pull saw features a very flexible blade. The design makes this saw extremely versatile and it is able to cut through lumber as well as things like chipboard. You’ll also be able to use this type of saw when cutting various types of soft plastic, but again, we must reiterate that it is not suitable for cutting metals.

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Rip-Cut Saw

A rip cut is made parallel to the direction of the wood grain and a specific type of blade is needed to achieve this. The teeth on a rip saw do not have an angled edge like those you would see on a cross-cut saw and so they behave more like tiny chisels that scrape away bits of the wood as they cut.

Cutting in this way is usually considered to be much easier and generally speaking, most rip saws are designed to be pushed rather than pulled.

Back Saw

A backsaw is an incredibly effective tool for cutting wood. This is largely thanks to the reinforced edge along the back of the blade. Here, an additional piece of steel is placed to make this part of the saw more weighted which in turn aids the user when cutting wood. In some cases, brass reinforcements may be used.

The backsaw is one of the more skilled tools and it can take some getting used to when working with it. In order that your project is successful, you must clamp your wood before cutting with a back saw. The initial cut should be made slowly and carefully and you’ll find there may be a degree of resistance. However, once that cut is made, the back saw then offers a smooth and efficient method of sawing. This means that they are great for cutting wood at an angle when a constant, direct cut is needed.

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Veneer Saw

As you may have guessed from its name, the veneer saw is one that is used to cut veneers. Veneers are sheets of wood that measure between 0.4 and 0.6 millimetres and are then glued to another piece of board. While this is a very specific type of saw, when doing this kind of work, it is invaluable.

Plasterboard Saw / Drywall Saw / Jab Saw

Commonly known as the jab saw, this tool goes by many different names. You may hear some people referring to it as an alligator or the keyhole. It takes just a quick glance at its design to understand why this is. The jab saw is used when you need to cut out patterns or rough circles and is quite commonly used when working with plasterboard (drywall.)

In some situations, you may need to remove a piece of board, but the shape of the wall makes it impossible to use power tools. That’s where the jab saw becomes an indispensable part of your arsenal.

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Camping / Branch Saw

You may sometimes hear the camping saw being called a pruning saw but in any case, these are different names for the same tool. These saws look quite different to other types and feature a long, curved blade that doesn’t look too dissimilar to a knife. The saw is designed to fold away making it ideal for taking on the road, hence the name ‘camping saw.’ There is also an option to extend the camping saw by using a wooden attachment.

The design of this saw means that the user can cut the right angle easily and quickly. Moreover, the design of the teeth means that this type of saw makes cuts during the withdrawal which is excellent when you are cutting overhead.

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Hand Saw TPI Guide (Teeth Per Inch)

When buying a saw, there are several things you’ll want to keep an eye out for but one of the most important is the TPI or teeth per inch. This measurement tells you how the saw will cut. As a general rule, saws with more teeth per inch will cut through material more slowly but you’ll have a far neater finish. On the other hand, a saw with fewer teeth per inch will move quickly but you’ll end up with a rougher cut.

  • A blade with one to seven teeth per inch is considered a coarse tooth blade and will cut through quickly but roughly, potentially splitting the fibres of the wood.
  • A blade with seven to ten teeth per inch is considered a medium tooth blade and will give an excellent balance between speed and neatness. They’re typically used for more general-purpose work.
  • A blade that has ten or more teeth per inch is known as a fine-tooth blade and will cut much more slowly but the end result will be smoother and more uniform without as many rough edges.

Cutting different types of material

Handsaws can be used to cut various different types of material, not just wood. In fact, many are designed especially for cutting metal, plastic or plasterboard, for example.

Hand Saws For Cutting Metal

While there are several different types of hand saw that can be used to cut metal, it is often considered that the hacksaw is the best option. The flexible blade is excellent for cutting metal but it is important to check the teeth per inch as fine hacksaws are generally better for thinner pieces of soft metal whereas a more coarse blade works well with harder metals like iron or steel.

Hand Saws For Cutting Wood

When it comes to cutting wood, you have several options. A coping saw is a great choice for cutting wood and is a brilliant general-purpose tool since it will make light work of both hard and softwoods.

If you will be cutting raw wood straight from the tree then a bow saw is going to be your best option, whereas a tenon saw will be better for more precise or fine work.

Hand Saws For Cutting Plastic

Saws that are used for cutting wood can often double up as a plastic saw, giving you even greater versatility.

Can You Sharpen A Saw?

In short, Yes. It is possible to sharpen a hand saw and this is an important part of keeping it at its best. You will increase its durability as well as how effectively it cuts.

If you purchase a good quality hand saw, then the chances of it standing the test of time are much higher. In fact, many experts will tell you that, with the right tool maintenance and care, a high-quality saw can be passed down through generations and still perform as well as it did when it was brand new.

How Do You Sharpen A Saw?

To sharpen your saw, you will need several tools and a little bit of time but the result will be worth it and you won’t have to head out and buy a new saw.

  • Begin by putting your saw into a saw vice. These are not as common as they once were but it’s perfectly simple to make your own using two pieces of wood in a benchtop vice to hold the saw in place. It’s important to use a vice as this will prevent vibrations that could hinder how well the file bites into the blade.
  • Next, you will need to use a saw jointer to ensure that all of the teeth are the same height. Over time and multiple uses, some teeth get worn down more quickly than others which can make cutting more difficult than it needs to be so it’s important not to skip this step.
  • You’ll now need to set the teeth and this is done using a saw set. To begin with, you will set every other tooth to the right and then moving back over the saw, the remaining teeth can be set to the left.
  • To sharpen the blade, you will need to use a file but the size of the file will be determined by the TPI of the saw. When you purchase a file, the packaging will usually tell you what TPI it is suitable for so do check this when you buy them.
  • If you are sharpening a rip saw, you will want to run the file perpendicular to the blade whereas when you are working with a crosscut saw, you’ll file at about an 80º angle.
Types Of Hand Saw And Their Uses

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